The Edge's gripping and atmospheric conversion of the gruesome Sega coin-op
Aliens have invaded a colony in deepest space and are poised to devour a group of Earth scientists. Veteran alien exterminators, Mary and Ricky have been assigned to the mission of infiltrating the colony and rescuing the prisoners.
Each of the seven multi-loaded levels offers solo or dual player combat in a maze of corridors and rooms in which the scientists are hidden. The levels push-scroll in eight directions and the action is viewed from overhead, Gauntlet style. Doors are opened simply by firing at thim, and falling off platforms results in the loss of one of five lives.
An information panel at the top of the playing area reveals both players' scores and the top score, the number of lives remaining and scientists to rescue, plus a timer. Points are awarded for destroying aliens and collecting scientists, and bonus points are given according to the amount of time remaining. A siren warns the player of the last ten seconds, but should the time run down before all scientists are collected, the ship explodes and the game ends.
Seven kinds of alien - each type unique to a level - patrol the colony, relentlessly seeking out the player. These include wriggling worms who appear out of the ground, huge, squirming maggot-like creatures and green bug-eyed hoppers. Contact with any of these or their emissions results in the loss of a life, although the currently held weapon remains intact.
A range of armaments is available to both players: at the start of the first level they are equipped with short-range guns, but additional weaponry is collected from store cupboards dotted around the colony. Extra equipment includes bombs (destroying only the area where they land), fire bombs (killing all in their path), a flamethrower (short-range but effective) and a laser (a long range, rapid-fire blaster).
Maps are accessed in each section, detailing the location and number of scientists still to be rescued. Once all the humans are saved from the alien horde an exit is activated, to which the player heads before the time limit expires. Once this is reached, the player tackles an end-of-level mother alien, which is destroyed, again within a time limit. These larger aliens increase in strength and ability according to the level and require a multitude of bullets to destroy; once they have been annihilated, the next section is entered.
The attention paid to recreating the tense atmosphere and alien detail of the coin-op original has clearly paid off. Graphically, Alien Syndrome is highly polished: the backdrops are superb, ranging from the beautifully shaded globular effect of level three to the gorgeous marbled effect of level seven.
Both main sprites are compact and clearly drawn, and the aliens are very impressive: each type is designed to combine sinister movement and repulsiveness.
The animation on the end of level nasties is generally good, and some are outstanding (just watch you for the spider-like monster if you don't believe me).
The gameplay is excellent: the basic Gauntlet-style action is enhanced by the hazardous terrain, waves of horrible aliens and a strict time limit - the effect of running for the exit with a siren blasting away is brilliant!
The only drawback is the scrolling, which moves at a marginally slower rate than the character: ignore this fault and experience a superbly designed and highly addictive conversion.
The arcade version of Alien Syndrome is simply brilliant, and this conversion manages to capture all the original atmosphere and spirit. The sprites are excellent, and the backdrops are amazingly similar to the arcade version, ranging from strange, organic growths, through an alien rock-type backdrop to the sterile atmosphere of a space hospital.
The conversion doesn't just look like the original, it also plays like it. It's basically a Gauntlet-style game, but is much more frenetic as you rush around a series of sinister landscapes pursued by some of the most horrid aliens I've seen in a computer game.
Inducing even more panic is the very tight time limit, which puts you under severe pressure as you attempt to rescue the prisoners before the time-bomb explodes. Best of all are the thoroughly revolting end-of-level guardians - especially Asophy.
Each is superbly drawn and animated, and form a tremendous final barrier - defeat it and you really feel you've won a last battle! The sound effects aren't too bad, but I don't like the soundtrack - it's very inappropriate. Why not use the same tense and atmospheric 'heartbeat' soundtrack of the original?
One big complaint is that the screen doesn't scroll fast enough, and you have to keep stopping to let it catch up with you (otherwise you get too near the edge and get killed by an alien).
If you can put up with this, you should thoroughly enjoy Alien Syndrome.
The reputation of the arcade Alien Syndrome gained for some of the most gruesome aliens around has been well respected by the programmers of this conversion. Each well-designed level is packed with some of the most bug-eyed monsters you could coax out of a set of VIC chips. The real treat, however, is when you come face to face with the end-of-level creatures - they're all highly imaginative beasts, particularly the Asophy and Minenor monsters. Of course, the fun lies in reducing them all to heaps of offal, and the artillery provided is suitably powerful for the job, as well as being easy to access.
It's a pity that the gratuitous blasting action is slowed slightly by the rate of screen scrolling. The game uses a strange push-scrolling method, which moves the screen slower than the player can walk, so in a fit of impatience it's possible to move straight into an alien entering the display.
Luckily this is easily compensated for, and it doesn't detract much from an otherwise exceptional bit of blasting.
One/two-player option, speedy multiload and large screen display.
Varied, detailed and colourful backdrops plus compact and neatly animated sprites create a convincing alien feel.
Option of music and sound effects, both of which are polished.
The combination of time limit, exploration and furious blasting action proves immediately addictive.
Clearing the levels is by no means easy, particularly in one-player mode, and the end of level nasties provide added lasting challenge.
An excellent version of the coin-op guaranteed to provide hours of enjoyment and frustration.